First, the Good News

1) National: In the Public Interest’s Executive Director Donald Cohen calls attention to some excellent journalistic exposés of attacks on public education—and the growing resistance to them—around the country.

  • Education Voters of Pennsylvania produced a report on asset accumulation in the state’s cyber charter schools.
  • The Washington Post last week took a deep dive into how public funds are making their way into religious schools through vouchers
  • A post from the Center on Budget and Policy Prioritieswritten by research associate Joanna LeFebvre outlines the cruel calculus taking place in more and more statehouses: increasing funds for vouchers while cutting public education-funding taxes.
  • In an op/ed in S. News,  Jasmine Bolton and April Callen of the Partnership for the Future of Learning expose the “school choice” idea for what it really is: a Trojan Horse for privatizing education.

“The separation of church and state, universal public education, equal opportunity, and accountability are all at risk with the proliferation of policies promoting vouchers and charter schools. As these articles show, our vigilance in fighting back is required.”

2) National/Pennsylvania: Billionaire Jay-Z gets busted big time for promoting a taxpayer-funded $300 million school voucher program. “Just to be clear for those not in Pennsylvania,” Phil Gentry, an organizer with West Philly Coalition for Neighborhood Schools, noted, “the legislation Jay-Z is supporting here is a Republican-led effort to gut public education, spearheaded by future Trump Cabinet member Jeffrey Yass.” Noliwe Rooks, a longtime opponent of school privatization, says “Jay-Z is a one-man cheer squad for vulture capitalism. Remember when he was trying to convince people in public housing they should invest in crypto, and when he collaborated on those debit cards?”

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones says “I really wish rich, out-of-touch folks who nothing about education would just stop. (…) The $300 million ain’t coming from Jay-Z nor Roc Nation. The $300 million is coming from the state’s tax payers and could be used to help turn around those low-performing schools instead of giving a windfall to unaccountable private schools. No.” Jones continues, “Roc Nation is not funding this, it is just launching an educational campaign that maybe it is being paid to do. I’m researching. But certainly, its involvement is to convince poor Black parents to leave the public schools.”

3) National: Government Executive reports that Senate Democrats are moving quickly to legally secure the right to access in vitro fertilization, which has been under attack by far right politicians. The legislation will reportedly include “a provision expanding federal workers’ access to those treatments as part of the government’s employer-sponsored health insurance program.”

4) National: Congratulations to Worth Rises for its #EndTheException campaign on slavery abolition winning the Gold award in Charity or Not-for-Profit, and the Silver in Creative Innovation at the 2024 Drum Awards for Marketing Americas. They say, “if you have not yet seen President Lincoln’s speech, this is a sign to go watch it! In this speech, President Lincoln discusses the “grave mistake” he made in allowing an exception in the 13th Amendment and urges Congress and the next President to finally end it, truly abolishing slavery for all.” Watch the video, about four minutes. Read this cost-benefit analysis of ending prison slavery.

5) National: Government Executive reports that “the nation’s largest federal employee union has ratified a new contract with the Environmental Protection Agency with new measures aimed at protecting the agency’s workforce from political interference. EPA employees, represented by the American Federation of Government Employees, voted to approve the new four-year deal last week. The contract’s ratification marks the first full deal between AFGE Council 238 and the agency after the Trump administration unilaterally imposed a contract on the workforce in 2019.”

6) California: United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) reports that there have been no new requests for co-locations of traditional public and charter schools over the past year—“a victory years in the making.” They report, “in September, the district reported a decline in charter school companies submitting Proposition 39 requests to co-locate on neighborhood school campuses. In the 2015-16 school year, 101 requests were submitted. Only 51 were submitted for the 2023-24 school year, and for the 2024-25 school year, zero requests for new co-locations were submitted.”

7) Idaho/National: From the Washington Post, an inspiring story out of the Gem State about a young person who stood up for freedom of expression and the right to read in an authoritarian environment of censorship. “She got her diploma and shook the hands of school officials—until she came to West Ada School District Superintendent Derek Bub. That’s when she pulled out a graphic novel adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale and showed it to the crowd before trying to hand it to the superintendent. When he refused to take the book, she dropped it at his feet. (…) Jenkins’s passion for libraries will extend beyond high school. This fall, she plans to attend Portland State University, where she wants to get a degree in English literature before getting a master’s in library science and pursuing a career as a librarian. It’s a dream she’s had since she roved around the shelves as a home-schooled sixth grader. ‘I just realized how magical and important libraries are as spaces,’ she said, “and I realized that I wanted to spend my life working on bettering them and protecting them.’”

8) Louisiana: After a 7-year experiment, New Orleans is an all-charter district no more. “Declaring charter schools a failed ‘experiment with children’s lives,’ one school board member who had been pushing the district to return to a more traditional model demanded that Williams begin opening direct-run schools, starting with Leah Chase. (…) Since then, a small but vocal number of residents have demanded an end to charter schools in the district. A group called Erase the Board has routinely protested closures and backed school board candidates who agree that the state constitution requires the Orleans Parish School Board to operate like a conventional district. They have an ally in state Sen. Joseph Bouie Jr., who has campaigned to overturn Act 91, the law codifying the district’s obligations to charter schools. For almost a decade, they had gotten little traction—not even after he equated the system to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment—with the exception of a change to state law to allow a board supermajority to overrule the superintendent’s recommendations.”

9) Massachusetts: Boston-area commuter rail has bounced back, while other agencies are lagging, Route Fifty reports. “There are a lot of factors at play, but one that sets Boston apart is the extent to which it has reworked its service to better serve people traveling in the middle of the day, in the evening and on weekends. It’s part of a larger movement nationally that has picked up speed after the pandemic to make commuter rail cater to more riders than just those who come downtown every day for work. The goal is to transform the service from commuter rail to regional rail.”


10) National/Oklahoma: A state judge has ruled that a lawsuit over the nation’s first Catholic charter school can proceed. “Oklahoma County District Judge Richard Ogden will allow the lawsuit against the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board to move forward almost in its entirety, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) said in a press release. In October 2023, the state board approved the charter contract for St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, putting the school on the path to becoming the first religiously affiliated charter school in the United States. (…) The plaintiffs in the Oklahoma lawsuit—who are being represented by AU, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ​​Freedom From Religion Foundation—contend that the state’s funding of a religious school violates both Oklahoma statutory and constitutional law.”

11) National/Texas: Is another U.S. Supreme Court case coming down the pike, prompted by a slick attempt to smuggle religious proselytizing into schools by a coterie of right wing politicians and religious zealots? “‘The law is clear cut to us—you don’t teach your students a particular religion,’ said Stan Surratt, superintendent of Lindale Independent School District, which sits in conservative Deep East Texas. ‘You can talk about different religions, but we don’t teach Christianity to our students.’ The materials feature Christian references throughout the kindergarten through fifth grade lessons.’” The Texas Tribune reports that a “Bible-infused elementary school curriculum” has now been released “amid a broader push by Texas Republicans, who control state government, to put more Christianity in public schools. During the Texas GOP convention last month, delegates voted on a platform that calls on lawmakers and the SBOE to ‘require instruction on the Bible, servant leadership and Christian self-governance.’” HB 1605 “does not mandate that districts use state-approved lesson plans, but it offers money to those that do. Districts that opt into using the resources could require their teachers to use the materials.”

12) National: “Don’t Be Fooled By ‘School Choice.’ It’s a Trojan Horse for Privatizing Education,” Jasmine Bolton and April Callen write in U.S. News. “It is the government’s obligation to ensure that every child has access to quality education. We cannot outsource that duty to the private sector. Diverting public funds to private schools means less transparency and accountability, and abandons the stewardship of taxpayer dollars and the equitable treatment of students. Public education funding needs to be updated to account for today’s challenges. School districts across the country face additional budget cuts this fall as pandemic-related federal funding expires.

13) Arizona: Parents of private voucher students spent over $1 million of public money buying Lego sets, 12News reports. “Financial records released this month by the state treasurer show that, in fact, parents have used scholarship funds to purchase at least 84 Lego sets at a price tag of $500 or more. They used a separate spending platform not related to the reimbursement process. The total bill for a nine-month span? About $1 million.”

14) Florida: The Lakeland Ledger reports that the Lake Wales Charter School District has fired its superintendent after conducting an inquiry into complaints. “They also said they felt the employees who had come forward showed courage and the board needed to protect the hundreds of employees who work for the district in matters similar to this case.  The first member of the board to speak out about Cremer’s findings was Tonya Stewart. ‘As a Black woman, I’m offended and outraged by what I heard,’ she said of her meeting with Cremer. ‘I think he needs to leave now and don’t get a dime.” The allegations started on March 19 when an employee submitted a complaint to Burroughs saying Rodolfich had created a ‘toxic and hostile work environment.’”

15) Kentucky: The Madisonville Messenger has reported that Madisonville-North Hopkins High School and Browning Springs Middle School are on their way to becoming community schools. They “received the first check as part of a $1.5 million grant from the Prichard Committee. This year, each school received funds of $75,000 to pay for the curriculum for their Kentucky Community Schools Initiative (KCSI) programs.”

16) New Hampshire: This is crunch week for possible legislative action on school vouchers. Lawmakers are expected to make a decision before adjourning this Thursday for the summer, the Keene Sentinel reports. “Backers of Education Freedom Accounts say they provide families important choices on the best way to educate their children. Opponents say the program lacks accountability and siphons needed money from public education.” [Sub required].

Meanwhile, New Hampshire Public Radio reports that “a local religious organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center deems a hate group runs one of more than 800 educational programs approved for New Hampshire’s school voucher program. Among the many debated facets of the state’s Education Freedom Accounts program is that it allows families to use public dollars for religious schools. But while Richmond’s Saint Benedict Center refers to itself as a Catholic organization—including on documents that allow it to secure property tax exemptions—the Diocese of Manchester says this is false.”

17) Texas: Lone Star State Democrats gathered in El Paso over the weekend and have come out fighting on issues ranging from school vouchers to shifting the political balance in the state. If you want an overview, watch this interview of State House Members Rafael Anchia and John Bryant by CBS News Texas political reporter Jack Fink. [Video, about 17 minutes]. On schools, the danger is not just staff raises and vouchers, but the real threat that massive teacher layoffs are coming. On vouchers, the two lawmakers feel very confident they can prove Gov. Abbott wrong on who’s got the votes, saying Democrats will be able to flip Republicans. But a lot depends on what happens at the national level.

ReformAustin has good coverage of the convention and education issues. “Gov. Greg Abbott previously said that he has 77 Republican votes in the Texas House for school vouchers. Currently, that number is enough to pass the bill in the 2025 legislative session, according to the Dallas Morning News. However, some analysts say that Democrats could flip enough seats in the upcoming election to defeat Republicans who support school vouchers. ‘I’m looking at the map now, across the state, and looking at where Democrats might win seats this fall. We’ve talked about this in the context of school voucher discussions and debates. I think that there are as many as… I’m not predicting this… There are as many as nine or so seats that Democrats could flip in the Texas House this fall,’ Scott Braddock, a political analyst, said in his podcast. Also, a recent analysis by LoneStar Left’s Newsletter said that there are 19 targeted Republican seats that could be flipped. ‘We have to fight,’ [Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa] said. ‘This is a fight we can win, if we go out and vote.’” See LoneStar Left’s recap of the convention.

18) West Virginia: The state charter school oversight board has produced a report on the West Virginia Academy charter school, covering multiple issues. “A second complaint included five allegations: that the school violated its own bylaws and the open meetings act when action was taken at a board meeting without a quorum, that the board didn’t participate in required governing board training, that the school lacks required policies under its charter agreement, that the school has conflicts regarding its internal controls—especially with the segregation of financial responsibilities, and that the school was in violation of the state ethics act.” 


19) National/Upcoming Conference: On June 24-26 in San Diego, there will be a transportation infrastructure “summit” where public and private infrastructure investment will be discussed. The organizers say this will be the place to be where you can  “go to learn how they deploy alternative project delivery methods.” Here are the current sponsors. If you’re planning to attend, you can bone up by reading the Roosevelt Institute’s report by Joseph Stiglitz on The Harms of Infrastructure Privatization: A Step Backward in Progressive Policymaking.

20) Georgia: Somewhat neglected by the national media, over the last week or so, Atlanta has been trying to cope with a major public infrastructure disaster—the rupturing on multiple points in its water system. This has raised all the familiar issues, from years of neglected maintenance, to who is responsible, to how quick the response has been, and, of course, whether privatization should be on the agenda.

 Atlanta’s mayor, Andre Dickens, has vowed to address the problems. “Atlanta’s water outages are the latest failures as cities across the country shore up faltering infrastructure. A 2022 crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, which has a long-troubled water system, left many residents without safe running water for weeks. Other cities including Flint, Michigan, have also struggled to supply residents with safe drinking water.”

The price of procrastination will be considerable. “The 1% water-and-sewer-repair sales tax Atlantans voted to extend just last month figures to produce roughly $1.1 billion in its four-year run. That’s not nearly enough, Mayor Andre Dickens said Wednesday. ‘I will be asking the feds for more money—lots more money,’ he said. ‘That’s going to be a number that’s in the billions. It’s not going to be a small number.’”

As expected, private equity smells an opportunity. “Repairing the damage can only add to the price tag. As the leaks are patched, the rotted pipes replaced and Atlantans go back to their pre-flood lives, the memory of the crisis should drive planning, an expenditure that might head off another, even more costly crisis, said Sadek Wahba, chairman of I Squared Capital, a private equity firm that invests in infrastructure, and author of the forthcoming book Build: Investing in America’s Infrastructure. ‘The water pipe issue in Atlanta is further proof of the essential need for sustainable forms of infrastructure investment,’ Wahba said. ‘And our infrastructure needs are so great that even with these major administration initiatives, the government’s spend is not sufficient.’”

21) Kentucky: Nine years after public bonds were sold to finance it, officials are still struggling to handle a troubled “public-private partnership” internet network, the Bond Buyer reports. “The bonds are ‘availability payment’ bonds with the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority legally responsible for paying them. In practice, each year the Kentucky government uses general funds to make the payments. According to Moody’s, twice in recent years the state’s working proposed budget didn’t include funds for payment of the bonds until a week or two before the governor signed it. In a September 2023 report, Moody’s said ‘negative attention’ during the budget process was one risk for a bond downgrade.” [Sub required]

22) International/United Kingdom: Can you use advanced mathematics and philosophy to justify ripping off the public and letting the privatization industry skate off with years of ill-gotten profits while leaving the public holding the bag? Well, a former Credit Suisse First Boston banker with Ph.D’s in both disciplines has had a go at it in the Financial Times. “Thames Water’s fix needs to be fast, not fair,” says Tim Short. It seems Short is somewhat desperate about the prospect that the rickety financial condition of the privatized water company may pull down the whole edifice of private infrastructure finance, if not induce a global economic Apocalypse.

“Thames Water’s potential collapse is top of ‘Sue’s shit list,’ the risk register compiled by Labour chief of staff Sue Gray of problems a new government will have to tackle immediately. But the problem is much wider, because the same financing model now wobbling at Thames Water is underpinning a lot of British infrastructure. The water sector relies on whole-business securitisations based on their regulated assets. So does Heathrow Airport. New projects like the proposed Sizewell C reactor, a key part of the UK’s net-zero plan, will apply the same model.”  The conclusion? The public just has to suck it up and pay the privatization piper—and quick. A commenter below the column has a more prosaic but quite relevant point: “I am just annoyed that the USS [University—ed.] pension scheme should have invested in such excrement.”

23) International/Brazil: A bid to privatize Brazil’s beaches has sparked an outcry, Japan Today reports. “A senate public hearing sparked outrage on social media. ‘Let’s pressure the senators to vote against this proposal,” said Brazilian actress and environmental activist Laila Zaid in an Instagram video viewed almost one million times. The furor comes as Brazil is tackling historic flooding in its south, which experts attribute to climate change. Leticia Camargo, who coordinates a working group on marine conservation in Congress, told AFP the proposal could ‘lead to greater occupation of marine land right at a time when climate change will make storm surges and coastal erosion increasingly frequent.’ She said the move could also open up ‘pressure for very large real estate interests.’ The proposal has already been approved by the lower house, and Camargo said it would likely be approved by the Senate Constitution and Justice Committee, where the right-wing opposition has a majority. It then heads to the full Senate for a vote.”

24) International/Brazil: “Sao Paulo’s state government unveiled more details of its plan to privatize Latin America’s largest water utility, aiming to complete the equity offering in the third quarter, Bloomberg reports. “After selecting two strategic investors to anchor the process next month, Cia de Saneamento Basico do Estado de Sao Paulo—known as Sabesp—will build two separate books in a broader offering, the state government said in a news release Monday. Those books will then compete to both garner the most bids and secure the highest weighted average price between the general investor offers and the price promised by the reference shareholder. Additionally, the government said the strategic shareholder will be responsible for compensating the state if the price of the winning book is below what was offered per share in the anchor-investor selection phase of the sale.” [Sub required].

25) International/Canada: Writing in rabble.ca, Paul Kahnert debunks “The Myth of Public-Private Partnerships.” “There is no free money. Governments at every level have a big revenue problem. This is largely a problem of their own creation. For decades Conservative and Liberal governments, under the cover of tax cuts for the general population, made massive tax cuts to the wealthy and their corporations. Now to solve their revenue problem to build critically needed infrastructure, they are turning to this very same corporate class selling the myth that somehow free money is to be had from Public-Private partnerships known as P3s.” 

Public Services

26) National: “Delays, denials, debt and the growing privatization of Medicare.” Writing in the Guardian, Michael Sainato take a deep dive into the subject. “But the expansion of Medicare Advantage has been immensely profitable for private health insurers tied to the program, who enjoy high-gross margins compared with other plans. Over the next 10 years, Medicare Advantage insurers are expected to receive more than $7tn in payments from the federal government. Private insurers have spent millions of dollars on advertising, marketing and hiring insurance brokers to sell Medicare Advantage plans to beneficiaries. In 2023, brokers received $601 per new enrollee for most Medicare Advantage plans, significantly higher than commissions for traditional Medicare plans. “I don’t think when it comes down to it that most people realize the extent to which private equity and privatization is moving into Medicare and Medicare Advantage,” said Rose Roach, executive director of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “They are buying up pieces of the entire healthcare system in this country.””

27) National: The chief of the Veterans Administration, Denis McDonough, has taken the blame for bloated executive salaries at the agency. “The issue came about after President Biden signed the PACT Act into law in 2022, which newly offered VA health care and benefits to millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits during their service. To meet the new demand, the law contained provisions to ease the recruiting and retention of employees. That included the “critical skill incentives,” or CSIs, for employees or applicants with “high-demand” or understaffed skills. VA unveiled last fall that VHA and VBA had provided the CSIs worth up to 25% of an employee’s base pay, to nearly all of their senior executives. In culling back the 182 bonuses, VA said it had made a “policy error” and was “overly broad” in using its new authority.”

28) California: Voice of San Diego reports that Escondido Democrats are up in arms over hospital privatization. “The Escondido Democratic Club has stopped supporting four Democratic elected members of the Palomar Health Board of Directors because of a new management agreement the board members supported in February. The club’s leadership says the new contract with a private nonprofit management company will greatly reduce public access and transparency. Palomar Health officials say the move will allow the hospital system to better partner, and compete, with private medical providers.”

29) Florida: Republicans’ brazen assault on public sector workers has put unions in survival mode. “More than a decade in the making, S.B. 256 essentially requires unions to have a lot of dues-paying members while simultaneously making it harder for them to do so. While the law bans public sector unions from deducting dues directly from members’ paychecks, it also requires at least 60% of a bargaining unit to pay dues or risk losing their union status. (…) Unions have entered survival mode, mobilizing to recruit and retain members. Several, including the Florida Education Association (FEA), have sued the state over the law.”

30) Ohio: A Republican congressional candidate is pushing for Social Security privatization. “It’s not gambling if you know what you’re doing,” said Kevin Coughlin. “And that’s why you diversify, because you’re hedging your bets against losses in one part of the portfolio by being safe over here.” How quickly they forget, if they ever knew in the first place. In the United States, when the stock market plummeted between late 2007 and 2009, nearly $8 trillion in value was wiped out across all sectors. Diversify that. That even made Grover Norquist shut up about Social Security privatization.

31) Utah: Gov. Spencer Cox (R) is demanding better results from homeless service providers. “After negotiations between the governor’s administration and lawmakers stretched into the final days of the 2024 session, the Utah Legislature ultimately funded more than $50 million in new money to help boost the number of emergency shelter beds. As part of that effort, lawmakers also passed a sweeping bill, HB 298, to restructure the state’s homeless system’s governing body, and tasked that body to create a statewide plan to reduce homelessness and establish new accountability measures for homeless providers. Those measures are not yet set, but is something the newly revamped Utah Homeless Services Board (which met for the first time last month) will be working on in coming months.”

32) International/Argentina: Javier Milei, Argentina’s new far right president, has announced the dismissal of 50,000 public officials. A month ago unions held a second general strike over Milei’s savage attacks against public workers and the public sector. “Aerolíneas Argentinas is not for sale!” says labor leader Hugo Yasky. On Friday, Yasky called for a demonstration, saying “destroying the state is destroying public education, which was built with a lot of effort, and it also means destroying teacher salaries. That’s why they stole the incentive from us, that’s why they refuse to vote on the Teacher Incentive Law.”

33) International/Canada: “Ontario’s healthcare system is in crisis. More privatization isn’t the answer,” says David Moscrop. “We know that private, for-profit chains will come to dominate our health-care system if we let them. It’s already happening. That’s a recipe for poorer services, higher costs, and worse outcomes. We could achieve better results for less by removing the profit motive and focusing on community clinics run on a not-for-profit basis. I’ve yet to see a compelling argument about this approach that isn’t premised on unproven hand-waving about how the profit motive incentivizes and produces better outcomes.”

34) International/Canada: The privatization of cleaning and other support services will increase the threat of superbug infections, says CUPE. “‘Contracting out hospital services such as cleaning is dangerous and unsafe – it magnifies risk of acquiring infections that can lead to death,’ said Michael Hurley, president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE). ‘Instead of contracting out to cut costs, William Osler should be investing resources in improving health and safety at a time when infectious diseases are on the rise globally, and microbial resistance is causing higher rates of hospital acquired infections.’”

All the Rest

35) National/Revolving Door News: Guess who’s hiring the former Senior Vice President and CFO of Spirit AeroSystems—the company at the heart of the Boeing scandal (watch the hearings this Thursday for more)—as its new CFO?  Why, it’s the private, for profit prison and immigration detention company GEO Group. Have a safe flight and bring your golden parachute?

36) National: Democrats are ramping up their patent fight with drug companies to lower prices. “Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) this week wrote to eight pharmaceutical company CEOs, urging them to remove 130 patents from a key federal registry, according to letters shared with The Washington Post. The Democrats are targeting Novo Nordisk, including some of its patents related to expensive drug Ozempic; GlaxoSmithKline; and other companies that produce asthma and diabetes medications. The 130 patents are among more than 300 patents that the Federal Trade Commission in April identified as “junk patent listings” that should be removed from the registry and are blocking competitors from producing cheaper alternatives.”

37) International/Mexico: Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) strikes an optimistic note that Mexico’s new president, Claudia Sheinbaum, will “accelerate the energy transition by strengthening public control.

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